Ida Giesy Becke, the maker of the quilt I chose to study, was a member of the Aurora Colony, a religious commune in Oregon. I first met her in Aurora: An American Experience in Quilt, Community and Craft by Jane Kirkpatrick. The group left Missouri seeking a place farther west, away from “worldly” influences. Members pooled talents and resources. Ida’s mother, Emma, the best seamstress in the colony, kept the only sewing machine at her house. There the women gathered to sew and quilt, and, doubtless, Ida learned to quilt. Ida, born in 1861, must have been about 15 or 20 years old when she made her quilt.
There are many variations of Ida’s flower or fruit basket pattern. The closest pattern I found used templates. After adjusting the size of the blocks, I looked for fabric. Finding the purple background fabric was a problem. It seemed a rather odd choice, but I’m not sure what would have been better. The women of the colony sold their wares at fairs, which may have allowed them to buy a fabric in one of the newest colors of 1875.
I found it difficult to do “Y” seams with such small pieces. Although the original quilt is machine pieced, I hand pieced the top of the block. Accuracy proved to be an issue, but I forged ahead. I chose to reproduce the quilt as accurately as I could except for the setting. I have never liked rows of blocks facing the center, and it wasn’t suitable for a wall hanging.
Ida’s granddaughter donated the quilt to the Aurora Colony Museum shortly before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, or it would have been lost. I was glad to study a quilt whose maker is known and to learn about her life.